CARD Act Disclosures May Have Little Sway Over Consumers

November 1, 2013
American Banker 
credit card news

Although the 2009 CARD Act promised clearer disclosures to consumers, such as suggested payment amounts for a card balance and toll-free phone numbers for credit counseling, analysts are questioning whether those requirements have driven borrowers to handle their accounts more responsibly. A September report by several economists calculated that the share of borrowers on track to pay off their balance in 36 months rose by only 0.5 percentage points since the law took effect. Even among consumers who did change their behavior, savings averaged just $24 per year.

There is also a question of whether it was helpful to require that monthly card statements post a credit-counseling hotline number. A recent online poll by the National Foundation for Credit Counseling found that 53 percent of respondents were not aware of the credit-counseling phone number on their monthly statements, and another 34 percent had never used the number.

Overall, U.S. consumers do have less card debt today compared to four years ago; total revolving consumer credit outstanding fell by about 7 percent in that time, according to Federal Reserve data. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau director Richard Cordray praised the new disclosures on monthly card statements, saying that they "give consumers a clearer sense of the consequences in deciding how to handle their credit card payments." A report by the bureau, however, shows that card issuers do not include the 36-month payment warning on the payment screens of their online account portals, which means that consumers who only look at their bills online do not see the required disclosures.

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